Today we cycle outside the main Angkor complex to the outlying temple of Banteay Srei, 35km from Siem Reap town. Our route takes us past paddy fields, and through pretty villages. Banteay Srei was built in the 10th Century and contains some of the finest examples of Khmer sculpture. Although much smaller than the later temples, here all of the buildings are covered in exquisite carvings. We also will stop along the way at a village where we'll have to chance to meet the locals and learn from them about their way of life including the art of Khmer Noodle making. Here we can taste this popular Cambodian dish and a sugar palm tasting too!In the afternoon as we cycle back to Siem Reap we can stop and visit a few of the less visited Angkor temples. Siem Reap town is pleasant to wander around; the market has plenty of interesting and excellent shopping and there is a vibrant nightlife scene.
This afternoon there may also be time to visit the Tonle Sap Lake, which is a branch of the Mekong River. Time permitting, this optional trip includes a boat ride to see the floating fishing villages. Anyone wanting to do this visit may need to miss part or all of the ride back to Siem Reap, depending on timings. Cycle approx. 70 km. if riding the full distance to and from Banteay Srei. Stay: Lynnaya Urban River Resort & Spa, Siem Reap (4 star).
The fortunes of Phnom Penh have shifted dramatically during its history and the terrible years of the Khmer Rouge and subsequent civil war through the 1970s and 1980s have scarred the country. During our stay we visit two sites which give us a vivid impression of some of the horrors. There is the Genocide Museum, which is the former Khmer Rouge prison known as S-21 or Tuol Sleng, in the centre of the city. And 15kms of out of town is the area known as the 'Killing Fields,' a mass grave and execution site for the former inmates of S-21. While visiting Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields may not appeal to everyone, we feel they give us an important understanding of what the country and its people had to endure just a few decades ago. On a more positive note, the city is very much on the rise again and is a fascinating place with fine examples of French colonial architecture. We will also tour the Royal Palace with its Silver Pagoda.
Afterwards, There is also excellent shopping at the 'Russian' market if you wish to visit. And there may also be the option to enjoy a sunset cruise on the Mekong, your leader will advise locally. Stay: Patio Hotel and Urban Resort, Phnom Penh (4 star).
This morning we depart our hotel and transfer to Chau Giang ferry for a short transfer before cycling along a lovely quiet backroad, lined with small villages and dwellings before stopping for lunch at a local restaurant. We then visit the ancient village of Long Dien B; home to many female artists who are known for having inherited and proudly maintaining over the ages their ancestors special technique of painting on glass. Here we have the chance to observe and learn about this traditional culture and art over a cup of tea. The rivers and canals of the Mekong Delta form an amazing network of waterways. The area is famous for its abundant rice production but in many areas farmers are now moving to more profitable fish-farming and fruit and vegetable growing.
Afterwards, we depart transfer to the Mekong Riverside Boutique Resort & Spa, where we will stay overnight. The evening is tranquil as we have dinner at the resort and enjoy some 'Delta' hospitality. Stay: Mekong Riverside Boutique Resort & Spa, Mekong Delta (4 star).
For those who wish (optional), there will be the option to rise early and enjoy the morning sunrise and kayak on the Mekong from the resort before breakfast. We then leave by boat, stopping en route for a look at the Cai Be floating market. Here large boats moor up in the Mekong River, weighed down with fruit and vegetable produce. Local traders and shop owners buy in bulk in this strictly 'wholesale' market. Recently, Cai Be floating market is becoming less crowded and smaller as fruit trading is mostly now done by trucks due to the bridge being built. However, this is still a great opportunity to see a local market and trade being conducted traditionally on a smaller scale. A little further on we make a short stop to see cottage industries producing such items as popped rice, pancakes, wine and other homemade products.
We start our ride towards Cai Lay where we take a scenic route through fruit orchards and along the Mekong riverbank. Back on the bus in My Tho, we drive on to the heat, hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City, still usually known as Saigon. This is an exciting and absorbing city where scooters pack the streets and temples stand defiantly alongside modern developments. Devastated by the Vietnam War, it is now a free market city where anything goes. Stay: The Odys Boutique Hotel, Saigon (4 star).